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How to Hire, Organise, and Keep Your Volunteers Happy

Working with volunteers is at the same time very rewarding, and very challenging. Here is my take on how best to figure out a way to work together to everyone's benefit and satisfaction. 


Volunteers and outsourcers may as well be the backbone of non-profits and charities. In his short Ted Talk, Mark Bezos, the head of development for a non-profit called “Robin Hood”, explains how his volunteer firefighter work makes him feel. Through a witty anecdote about saving a pair of shoes from a burning house, he makes a compelling argument about what draws people to become volunteers and make a change. And if you’ve wondered how you can do the same, and ensure you have the best people around, then we have a few tips.


Know Where to Look

First of all, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask – whether it is another company or non-profit, or friends and family members. Ask around if there is anyone interested to help you with your project or event.

The second option is to go online and scour the Internet for volunteer organisations, databases, and outsourcing companies. Or, post an opening on your website, offering work experience on your next project/event, with all the necessary details.


Put Your Best Self Forward

When you’re posting a call for volunteers, you need to pay attention to two things – the kind of people you want on your team, and what you can offer back. That is why it’s important to:

·        Find the Right Channels

Who you want to find will dictate your means of ad posting. If a non-profit animal rights organisation wants to organise an event, they’ll post volunteering ads near dog parks, universities, and vet clinics. Chances of finding animal-friendly volunteers are greater there.

·        Find the Right Voice

Take the time to really think about what kind of volunteers you need and write the ad they would want to sign up for. A small public stunt can do a lot to raise the awareness of the upsides of joining your cause. Make a video call to action, a clever poster, or a witty online campaign.


Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose

Those interested in devoting their time to your cause do so with star-struck eyes and three motivations:

  • They want to feel like they’re making a change, both to their lives, and their community,
  • They want to gain mastery over one or more of their skills,
  • They want to be autonomous, independent, and have control over their work.

Consider these three motivations when hiring, as the perfect candidate will have all of them.


Communicate Clearly

Always be open and transparent about your event, about the tasks, and about the volunteers’ takeaway once everything is over.

From the get-go, let them know what they will get from working with you. Maybe it’s a chance to network, maybe it’s connections, opportunities for future employment, a certificate, a new skill set… Consider the scope and type of work, and how you can ensure it has a tangible payoff to the volunteers.


Organisation is Key

When there is no monetary incentive, you need to invest in other means of keeping the productivity levels high. One of the best ways to do this is through meticulous organisation.

Divide all tasks into “bite-sized chunks”. The smaller the tasks, the easier they are to get done, and the quicker they get checked off the list. And we all know how good it feels to check tasks off lists.

Hold occasional sit-downs. Have them in the morning, over coffee, or after the daily grind is over. Keep them updated on how far off you are with the schedule, and the current state of things.


Avoid Financial Pitfalls

One of the best ways to keep your volunteers happy is through food, snacks, and beverages. Facilitate breaks during which they can relax and mingle a little over some sandwiches and water or sodas.

However, one problem that can surface is realising you won’t be able to feed them all every day, or afford other amenities, such as transport or parking space. Work with the budget you have and see what you can allocate where. 


Make People Feel Valued

Your volunteers need to know how their help will push your project/event forward. Let them know from the very beginning how important they are to your cause. We’ve mentioned purpose, and this is where it comes into play the most.

Spare no expense when it comes to thanking each and every one of them for how impacting the bigger picture. Their contributions are important, and the more they are aware of it, the better the odds of them doing a good job, and coming back again in the future.


To Sum Up

The whole idea of people volunteering revolves around them doing something they love, for a greater cause and perfecting their skill set along the way. Looking for a workforce in volunteering circles means you are ready to offer an enjoyable, educational, and overall pleasant experience. This needs to be reflected from the moment you decide to post an ad, to the very end of your project or event. Creating a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will give you a better chance of returning volunteers.

So, what are you waiting for? Save the shoes!


Page last edited Aug 21, 2019 History

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